Thursday, September 11, 2008

God-incidence, Part One

Do you believe in coincidence? How about God-incidence? I tend to favor the latter and have experienced many moments that I refuse to attribute to mere chance.

One such example occurred in the summer of 2001. I had only known Christ for three years and was trying to serve Him the best that I could through my church. I struggled constantly with God’s will—with what He wanted to do with my life, with where He truly wanted me.

That summer Johnny, the men’s ministry president at my church at the time, proposed a trip to a Promise Keepers conference in Knoxville, TN, about three hours from our town in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. PK had always intriqued me, and the Knoxville location was the closest the event had ever come to us. I really wanted to go, but there was a snag.

The conference fell on the weekend of my mother’s birthday*, and it was our family tradition to celebrate together, with a dinner on the town and cake and ice cream back home. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother, so I resigned myself to the fact that this conference wasn’t for me.

A week or so before PK my mother called to tell me that my father was taking his vacation time the week of her birthday and that they were going out of town to visit her brother during her birthday weekend.

Hmmm . . . I can go to Promise Keepers after all. After my mother hung up I immediately called Johnny and told him to put me down for the trip.

“That’s great! I’ll need your money soon.”

“My money?”

“Yes, the conference costs seventy dollars.”

My heart sank. Seventy dollars. It might as well have been seventy-thousand. My family of four was living on my teacher’s salary, as my wife and I had made the choice for her to be a stay-at-home mom to our two toddlers. The Lord provided for our needs, but we certainly didn’t have an extra seventy dollars lying around for me to go to a conference. I explained this predicament to Johnny, an eternal optimist who tried to encourage me, but I told him to count me out.

I hung up feeling despondent. My schedule had opened up, but my wallet was still closed. My wife suggested that we pray for the Lord’s will to be done, and, if it was meant for me to attend PK, He would provide the way.

We prayed along these lines for a day or so as the deadline for the conference drew near. One day I checked the mailbox and discovered an envelope from my school. I had done some travel for work earlier that spring, and my reimbursement had been delayed. I opened the envelope and found a check for $63.

My wife laughed. “I guess the Lord figures we can swing seven dollars.”

In the end, I received some extra money from my parents as well.

That Promise Keepers conference turned out to be a turning point in my Christian walk. At that conference the Lord confirmed my call to children’s ministry. A few months later, that call would lead me to write and to produce my first children’s Christmas play—my initial foray into this wonderful world of Christian writing.

At that same conference I picked up a brochure for Operation Christmas Child, in which churches and individuals pack shoeboxes filled with small Christmas presents for needy children around the globe. During one of the breaks in the program I read about a twelve year-old boy who was thrilled with the box of crayons in his shoebox. He loved to draw and to color but had never owned his own crayons. The boy had also accepted Jesus into his heart after reading the literature in that simple shoebox.

God used that story to break my heart right there in the middle of Thompson-Bolling Arena and to speak some simple words into my spirit: Go home and do this at your church.

I obeyed those words, and, seven years later, my small, rural church has supported Operation Christmas Child to such a degree that we are now an area/county collection center. I am the coordinator and promote the program throughout our region. I am proud to say that I am obsessed with shoeboxes year-round and can't imagine my life without them.

Look what God did through a conference that interfered with my family schedule and that I couldn’t afford on my own! Some of you may think you can't afford to attend a writers' conference like KCWC, but can you afford not to attend?

I ask again: do you believe in coincidence? Or do you believe in God-ordained moments, where He aligns people and events to move you into your destiny?

Blessings, Carlton Hughes, KCWC Publicity Chair

COMING SOON: Part Two

* Kentucky Christian Writers Conference falls on my mother’s birthday weekend every year. She understands my call to writing, so we now celebrate a week early!

3 comments:

Lettie Kirkpatrick-Burress said...

Carlton,

Enjoyed your story, it is a blessing to recognize the "God-moments" in our life and to share them as our testimony. It truly sounds like you are learning to recognize His voice and to be led. He, in turn, is blessing your obedience. And blessing "us" as we tune in to what you share. Keep following :-)
Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress

Jane Cavanah said...

Haven't you heard? "Coincidence" is just God, working incognito!

Funny that He sent you $63... the $70 you needed, minus His 10%...

God IS good!

Ann H. Gabhart said...

Great bit of testimony, Carlton. So many times we forget to talk about the God-incidences that touch our lives. May you have many more answered prayers to write about in the days ahead.